Ministers braced for Dominic Cummings testimony on Covid crisis | Dominic Cummings

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Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former top adviser, is preparing to expose many of the mistakes he claims the government made as the Covid pandemic hit Britain last year.

After years spent in the heart of Westminster but operating mainly behind the scenes, Cummings will deliver on-camera testimony as he is quizzed on Wednesday by two committees of senior MPs conducting an inquiry into lessons to be learned from the crisis.

Some Conservative figures fear bombshell evidence about Johnson’s actions, forecasting “Domageddon”, a “nuclear Dom” or a “sword of Domocles” moment. Others are unfazed, believing Cummings to be distrusted by the public for his lockdown-breaking trips, and clearly out for revenge against his former boss.

This month, Johnson finally announced the independent public inquiry into ministers’ handling of the pandemic, to begin in spring 2022. Cummings has pushed for parliament to set up its own investigation to learn lessons more quickly.

On the morning of the evidence session, Cummings continued to add to a 65-tweet long thread posting a picture appeared to be dated 13 March 2020 of a whiteboard in Downing Street sketched with details of a Covid response “plan B”.

It said there would be “no vaccine in 2020” and that “to stop NHS collapse we will probably have to ‘lockdown’”. Crucially, the scribbles show that “our current ‘plan’ means 4/k p/d dying @ peak”. At the bottom is a note that says the new plan would mean “no 2 weeks (?) before we catch up with Italy”.

Unanswered questions are also seen written on the whiteboard, including: “Who do we not save?” and “who looks after the people who can’t survive alone?”

The night before, Cummings claimed in another set of tweets that one of the “worst failings” last year was the “almost total absence of a serious plan for shielding/social care” and added: “There was widespread delusion we HAD a great plan. It turned out to barely exist.”

He also hinted he plans to shine a light on an alleged but firmly denied government strategy of “herd immunity”, meaning enough people gaining resistance to a virus that it no longer spreads unchecked.

On Wednesday morning, the government attempted to question Cummings’ credibility. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’ll leave it to others to decide the reliability of the witness.”

He also told Sky News ministers were “making decisions under unprecedented situations” and that there was “no textbook to open to see how to deal with a pandemic”.

He added: “It’s easy to be the professor of hindsight. For certain, there are things we could have done differently … but I’ll leave it to others to determine how reliable a witness he is.”

Downing Street has not denied claims the Daily Mail reported Cummings would level at Johnson, including that the prime minister was so blasé about the threat of Covid at the outset of the pandemic that he considered getting infected with the virus live on TV and called it the “kung flu virus”.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “There is a huge task for this government to get on with. We are entirely focused on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the roadmap and distributing vaccines while delivering on the public’s priorities.

“Throughout this pandemic, the government’s priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS and support people’s jobs and livelihoods across the United Kingdom.”

Last month, Cummings, who left Downing Street in November after a power battle, made clear his disdain for Johnson, writing that the prime minister had fallen “so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves” and denying he was the source of a series of leaks.

He has also promised to provide a “crucial” document on Covid decision-making to the health and science committees chaired by two Tory MPs, Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark.

Some of Johnson’s allies will most likely be keen to discredit Cummings but the prime minister and other members of the cabinet publicly backed him after his lockdown trips, exposed by the Guardian and Daily Mirror, last year.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Ministers braced for Dominic Cummings testimony on Covid crisis | Dominic Cummings

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